Iona head coach Rick Pitino made sure his team had no hiccups going into the first game they’ve played since Dec. 23. It was tough for head coach Steve Masiello to break through Iona’s man-on-man defense. In the end, he couldn’t find an answer against the Gaels.
Iona’s slow start snowballs into momentum
The first half started off slow. It took over a minute for the first bucket to be scored. Junior Berrick JeanLouis started off the scoring for the Gaels. Junior Elijah Buchanan opened it for the Jaspers with a 3-ball just 32 seconds later. That 3-pointer laid the path for the Jaspers to lead for a solid three-and-a-half minutes in the first half. Iona never stayed far behind. They were led by the first-half scoring leader in freshman Nelly Junior Joseph, who would keep Iona within three points of the Jaspers during their lead. It was around the 15-minute mark that the Gaels really started their momentum. After a deep 3-pointer from senior Isaiah Ross to take the Gaels up to 10, it was a goose-chase for the Jaspers.
The Jaspers would stay close to the Gaels until around the nine-minute mark with the help of juniors Warren Williams and Ant Nelson. It would not be enough though. The Gaels would start lifting off after a deep 3-pointer to make the score 25-17 to Iona. Manhattan would only score 6 points in almost six minutes while Iona would raise their score to 36. Pitino made sure to dig deep into his reservoir in the first half as well. Sophomore Osborn Shema made his first appearance for the Gaels this season in the first half. Parker Weiss even came on and joined in on the scoring session. He put up a quick 3-pointer seconds after he came on the court.
By the end of the half, Iona would extend that lead to 20 points as the half ended 49-29. Multiple missed opportunities from the Jaspers followed by capitalization from the Gaels would make the road rough and the climb hard for Manhattan in the second half.
Manhattan’s high pressure just wasn’t enough
At the start of the second half, Iona continued their momentum for a bit. JeanLous and Joseph, two integral players for the Gaels tonight, made two quick 3-point plays to start out the half. It was here, when Iona had their biggest lead, that Manhattan turned on their game. For the next two minutes, the Jaspers held Iona at that score. They went on a 9-0 scoring stint after a couple of free throws from Buchanan, a layup from Nelson, and a raucous dunk from junior Samba Diallo.
The next few minutes weren’t so good for the Gaels either. It was a matter of chipping away at the lead for the Jaspers. Nelson and Diallo helped keep the difference tight and Manhattan finally started to creep up on the Gaels at 14:41. Manhattan managed to get the deficit to only 14 by the 9:16 mark. It wasn’t enough, as Iona started to get their grasp back and their game intact. Senior Asante Gist helped get the Gaels back in motion with swift jumper. Freshman Ryan Myers drained a couple of free throws followed by a deep 3-pointer.
By the end of the game, it was a fairytale for the Gaels. Top performers for Iona included JeanLouis with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals, Joseph with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks, and Gist with 13 points, 5 assists and 2 steals.
Manhattan’s top performers included Buchanan with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, Diallo with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals, and Williams with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists.
The win put the Gaels at 4-1 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, with an overall record of 6-3. Manhattan are now 4-9 in the MAAC, 5-9 overall.
The long-time rivals go against each other again tomorrow at 5 p.m. at the Hynes Athletics Center.